Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thoughts On Academic Twitter

It's 3:55 as I begin writing. This is not usually when I write. Six-year-old was up for a minute at 3:00. He thought it was 6:00 and time to get up. Three-year-old was up for a minute at 3:30. He needed a blanket adjustment. I couldn't fall back to sleep. I've been meaning to put together some thoughts about Twitter. I suppose this presents an opportunity.

One question I have for academics on Twitter: how long do you see yourself tweeting? Do you picture yourself tweeting in three years? In five? Some other program might come along and knock Twitter out before then anyway. But supposing Twitter sticks around, will you?

When many of us went to graduate school, social media wasn't part of the equation. We were on a track to teach and do research. It wasn't "you will teach, research, and tweet." But we found ourselves tweeting, even though it's not required. Some of the folks I follow have strong Twitter game day after day. I find myself with less to say these days. There are times when I consider weighing in on something and then the thought occurs that "the world doesn't need my opinion on this." Maybe because I've been blogging and tweeting for a long time, I've had ample opportunity to express myself.

But Twitter offers more than self-expression. Twitter provides a sense of community. Twitter is a place for activists to gather and work. Twitter gives people voice. It's a place to share and compare experiences in academia. Twitter is a way to share ideas and resources about teaching. Twitter is a platform to communicate ideas as one does research. There are lots of reasons that people take to Twitter. It doesn't have to be just one. But I wonder what keeps you there?

I've interviewed some people about Twitter. Through e-mail, I've conducted interviews with academics on Twitter. There are many things they like about Twitter, the kinds of things I mention in the previous paragraph. One thing some academics don't care for is self-promotion. They seem turned off by self-promotion. I feel like I've done my share of self-promotion on Twitter. I share my work quite a bit on Twitter. I try not to overdo it, whatever that means. All of this is subjective. Maybe we need a Twitter referee to throw a flag once in a while: "Too much self-promotion!" It's hard to figure out. I'm pretty loose about self-promotion. I'm one to think, "we want to get our ideas out there, so Twitter is a place to do it." What do you think about self-promotion? Do you get annoyed by it? Do you play a part in it?

One academic recently posed a question about Twitter to me: "What's the point of all this?" What this person had in mind is how often we tweet with no response. Many of our tweets are not greeted with favorites and retweets. So what are we doing out here on these Twitter streets? Just tweeting into the world, just because? Does it matter if only a few people are paying attention to our tweets? What do you think?

I'm interested in what it's like for people who have a few thousand followers or more and get a lot of favorites and retweets. I wonder if it puts pressure on them. For me, I tweet with a record of getting a favorite or retweet for one or two of every ten tweets. Approximately. What happens when all of a sudden you rack up the favorites and retweets? Does it change the way you tweet?

I've had some very enjoyable interactions with people on Twitter. I really like and learn from a lot of the people I follow on Twitter. Twitter has given me a ton of valuable information that I have put to use in my courses. There are things about Twitter that frustrate me, but I'll probably stick around for a while.

It's 4:32 now. I'm not sure this is coherent. But I'll proofread it a few times and then put some of these questions on Twitter. 4:58 a.m., time to post.


  1. I think I'm at a crossroads with social media. I enjoy it because it keeps me connected to people I already know, yet at the same time it helps me cultivate professional relationships that I might not otherwise get to have. Social media, though takes time, time that I don't really have. I don't necessarily want to enage because I might not check back in on the conversation for days.

    I thought that social media might have its place in reaching students outside of the classroom, but I'm less sure of this today and wonder if the investment in trying to reach students via social media is worthwhile.

    I don't think that every tweet needs a response, star, or retweet. I know I sometimes tweet something just to bookmark it for myself. If someone else finds it useful, fine. If no one else cares about it, fine.

    I'm done rambling for today.

    1. Hi Stephanie, thanks for taking the time to comment. Really appreciate your thoughts. Would love to hear from more folks about this. Thanks again.